Road-Based Accessibility to Essential Services

Project status

In progress

Start date: 03/15/15
End date: 03/31/17


Principal investigator:

Co-principal investigators:

About the research

More than a million Iowans and 59 million Americans reside in rural areas. The median rural resident is older, economically poorer, and more ethnically diverse, and enjoys a lower level of accessibility to infrastructures/facilities such as hospitals, grocery shops, social service providers, and governmental facilities (“essential services,” for shorthand hereafter) relative to their urban counterparts. On the one hand, essential services have been centralized and/or reduced due to economic stagnation; on the other hand, the availability and state of repair of our transportation infrastructure significantly influence the accessibility of essential services. However, much of the existing research on the accessibility of essential services has focused on urban residents/areas. There is a critical need to evaluate the accessibility to essential services among rural residents and to propose feasible solutions to enhance it if necessary.

This research has four objectives:
1. Investigate the minimum sufficient essential services (MSES) among rural residents and assess the accessibility to MSES among rural Iowans, taking into account sociodemographic characteristics and the transportation infrastructure’s state of repair.
2. Measure the existing accessibility to various essential services among rural Iowans, accounting for sociodemographic characteristics and the transportation infrastructure’s state of repair.
3. Quantify the accessibility gaps between the existing and minimum sufficient essential services among representative subgroups of rural Iowans.
4. Based on the above, provide policy recommendations for transportation decision-makers regarding how to optimize rural Iowans’ accessibility to MSES in an era of tight budgets.

This research is not merely of interest to transportation professionals and officials. Understanding whether a million rural Iowans have accessibility to MSES and wisely enhancing that accessibility is a community and economic development issue that will also be of interest to a variety of stakeholder groups and community leaders.



  • Iowa State University
  • Midwest Transportation Center